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Some say thronging cavalry, some say foot soldiers,

others call a fleet the most beautiful of

sights the dark earth offers, but I say it’s what-

ever you love best.

And it’s easy to make this understood by

everyone, for she who surpassed all human

kind in beauty, Helen, abandoning her

husband—that best of

men—went sailing off to the shores of Troy and

never spent a thought on her child or loving

parents: when the goddess seduced her wits and

left her to wander,

she forgot them all, she could not remember

anything but longing, and lightly straying

aside, lost her way. But that reminds me

now: Anactória,

she’s not here, and I’d rather see her lovely

step, her sparkling glance and her face than gaze on

all the troops in Lydia in their chariots and

glittering armor.

Translation: Jim POWELL


Er zijn er die zeggen dat oprukkende ruiterij,

dat voetvolk, dat een vloot het mooiste om zien is

dat de donkere aarde te bieden heeft, maar ik zeg

dat het mooiste is wat je ’t liefste ziet.

En ‘t is makkelijk om te begrijpen door iedereen,

want zij die alle mensen in schoonheid overtrof,

Helena, die haar echtgenoot, de beste

van alle mannen, in de steek liet,

die ging zeilen naar Troje’s kusten, en die nooit

aan haar kind of liefhebbende ouders dacht

toen de godin haar verstand benevelde

en haar liet zwerven,

vergat ze allemaal, ze kon zich niets meer

herinneren behalve verlangen en zachtjes dwalen,

ze verloor de weg. Maar dat herinnert me

er nu aan: Anactória,

ze is hier niet en ik zie liever haar lieftallige stap,

haar sprankelende blik en gelaat, dan te staren

naar alle troepen in Lydië in hun strijdwagens

en glinsterende wapenrusting.

Vertaling Engelse tekst: Z. DE MEESTER

I have not had one word from her

I have not had one word from her

Frankly I wish I were dead

When she left, she wept

a great deal; she said to me, "This parting must be

endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."

I said, "Go, and be happy

but remember (you know

well) whom you leave shackled by love

"If you forget me, think

of our gifts to Aphrodite

and all the loveliness that we shared

"all the violet tiaras,

braided rosebuds, dill and

crocus twined around your young neck

"myrrh poured on your head

and on soft mats girls with

all that they most wished for beside them

"while no voices chanted

choruses without ours,

no woodlot bloomed in spring without song..."

--Translated by Mary Barnard

Come to me here from Crete

Come to me here from Crete,

To this holy temple, where

Your lovely apple grove stands,

And your altars that flicker

With incense.

And below the apple branches, cold

Clear water sounds, everything shadowed

By roses, and sleep that falls from

Bright shaking leaves.

And a pasture for horses blossoms

With the flowers of spring, and breezes

Are flowing here like honey:

Come to me here,

Here, Cyprian, delicately taking

Nectar in golden cups

Mixed with a festive joy,

And pour.

Translation A.S. KLINE


…already old age is wrinkling my skin

and my hair is turning from black

to grey; my knees begin to tremble

and my legs no longer carry me…

oh, but once, once we were like young deer

…what can I do?…

…it is not possible

to return to my youth; for even

Eös, the dawn, whose arms are roses,

who brings light to the end of the earth –

found that old age embraced Tithonus,

her immortal lover…

…I know I must die

yet I love the intensity of life

and this, and desire, keep me here in

the brightness and beauty of the sun

[and not with Hades…]

Translation: Josephine BALMER


Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,

You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.

There hovers forever around you delight:

A beauty desired.

Even your garment plunders my eyes.

I am enchanted: I who once

Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess,

Whom I now beseech

Never to let this lose me grace

But rather bring you back to me:

Amongst all mortal women the one

I most wish to see.

--Translated by Paul Roche

To Atthis

My Atthis, although our dear Anaktoria

lives in distant Sardis,

she thinks of us constantly, and

of the life we shared in days when for her

you were a splendid goddess,

and your singing gave her deep joy.

Now she shines among Lydian women as

when the red-fingered moon

rises after sunset, erasing

stars around her, and pouring light equally

across the salt sea

and over densely flowered fields;

and lucent dew spreads on the earth to quicken

roses and fragile thyme

and the sweet-blooming honey-lotus.

Now while our darling wanders she thinks of

lovely Atthis's love,

and longing sinks deep in her breast.

She cries loudly for us to come! We hear,

for the night's many tongues

carry her cry across the sea.

Translation Willis BARNSTONE

A Hymn To Venus

O Venus, beauty of the skies,

To whom a thousand temples rise,

Gaily false in gentle smiles,

Full of love-perplexing wiles;

O goddess, from my heart remove

The wasting cares and pains of love.

If ever thou hast kindly heard

A song in soft distress preferred,

Propitious to my tuneful vow,

A gentle goddess, hear me now.

Descend, thou bright immortal guest,

In all thy radiant charms confessed.

Thou once didst leave almighty Jove

And all the golden roofs above:

The car thy wanton sparrows drew,

Hovering in air they lightly flew;

As to my bower they winged their way

I saw their quivering pinions play.

The birds dismissed (while you remain)

Bore back their empty car again:

Then you, with looks divinely mild,

In every heavenly feature smiled,

And asked what new complaints I made,

And why I called you to my aid?

What frenzy in my bosom raged,

And by what cure to be assuaged?

What gentle youth I would allure,

Whom in my artful toils secure?

Who does thy tender heart subdue,

Tell me, my Sappho, tell me who?

Though now he shuns thy longing arms,

He soon shall court thy slighted charms;

Though now thy offerings he despise,

He soon to thee shall sacrifice;

Though now he freezes, he soon shall burn,

And be thy victim in his turn.

Celestial visitant, once more

Thy needful presence I implore.

In pity come, and ease my grief,

Bring my distempered soul relief,

Favour thy suppliant's hidden fires,

And give me all my heart desires.

Translation Ambrose PHILIPS

Midnight Poem

The moon is set. And the Pleiades.
It’s the middle of the night.
Time passes.
But I sleep alone.

The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads’ light;
It is midnight,
And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie.


Ster en maan zijn heen,

dag breekt weldra aan.

Uren komen, uren gaan.

En steeds blijf ik alleen.

De maan is ondergegaan.

En de Plejaden.


De tijd verstrijkt,

Ik slaap alleen.

On What Is Best

Some celebrate the beauty

of knights, or infantry,

or billowing flotillas

at battle on the sea.

Warfare has its glory,

but I place far above

these military splendors

the one thing that you love.

For proof of this contention

examine history:

we all remember Helen,

who left her family,

her child, and royal husband,

to take a stranger's hand:

her beauty had no equal,

but bowed to love's command.

As love then is the power

that none can disobey,

so too my thoughts must follow

my darling far away:

the sparkle of her laughter

would give me greater joy

than all the bronze-clad heroes

Translated by Jon CORELIS

Happy as a God is he

Happy as a God is he

That fond Youth, who plac’d by thee,

Hears and sees thee sweetly gay,

Talk and smile his soul away.

That it was alarm’d by Breast,

And depriv’d my Heart of Rest.

For in speechless Raptures tost,

Whilst I gaz’d, my Voice was lost.

The soft Fire with flowing Rein,

Glided swift thro’ ev’ry Vein;

Darkness o’er my Eyelids hung;

In my Ears faint Murmurs rung.

Chilling Damps my Limbs bedew’d;

Gentle Tremors thrill’d my Blood;

Life from my pale Cheeks retir’d;

Breathless, I almost expir’d.

Translation : John Addison

Hij lijkt mij aan de goden gelijk te zijn

Hij lijkt mij aan de goden gelijk te zijn

de man die tegenover jou mag zitten

en van dichtbij hoort hoe jij zachtjes praat

met mooie stem

en hoe jij lieflijk lacht, wat bij mij altijd

mijn hart heftig onder mijn ribben laat slaan.

Zodra ik ook maar even naar je kijk verstomt

mijn stem volledig,

mijn tong ligt gebroken in mijn mond, meteen

kruipt er een ragfijn vuur onder mijn huid,

mijn ogen zien niets meer, een machtig gonzen

vult mijn oren,

zweet breekt aan alle kanten uit, een trillen

neemt bezit van mij, bleker dan verdord gras

ben ik, slechts een paar korte stappen nog en

ik lijk te sterven.

Vertaling: Mieke Vos


Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,

A-top on the topmost twig,—which the pluckers forgot, somehow,—

Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it till now.

Zoals een volrijpe appel

die bloeiend aan een takje hangen bleef

toen de appelpluk was gedaan,

zo vergaten zij haar.

Vergaten de plukkers haar?

Neen, zij konden er niet aan.

Vertaling : P.C. BOUTENS